USPS Delivers Dubious Grocery and Banking Proposals to Taxpayers

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, May 28th, 2015, 4:47 PM PERMALINK


According to a white paper released last week by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), USPS is now considering expanding its services to banking in a last ditch effort to raise revenue. This announcement follows close on the heels of the USPS’s recent illogical efforts to expand services into grocery delivery.

For years the Postal Service’s finances have been in dire straights. The USPS reported second quarter losses this year of $1.5 billion marking the 24th quarter out of the past 26 they have posted massive revenue losses. They have additionally posted multi-billion dollar losses the last 8 years, signaling an inherent inability to efficiently manage the finances of the primary service it is charged with – delivering the mail.

Logically, one would think choosing to expand services to banking and grocery delivery could be a financial nail in the coffin given the USPS’s inability to keep their core mail delivery service out of the red. However the bureaucratic mindset seldom finds itself in the company of logic.

Thus instead of working to increase financial efficiency and decrease waste in existing services, the Postal Service is proposing to gamble taxpayer dollars away on revenue schemes well outside the purview of delivering mail.

For instance in the recently released white paper titled The Road Ahead for Postal Financial Services, the OIG suggests possibly expanding services to handing out loans, check cashing and even creating its own “full-fledged post bank.”

The USPS has also started beta testing a grocery delivery service in San Francisco meaning they are now competing against actual hard working entrepreneurs and businesses. However, unlike their competitors USPS is not susceptible to free market forces thanks to government backing, essentially making them “to bureaucratic to fail.”  

Not only do such practices disrupt the market and disregard the basic free market principles America was founded on but will also leave taxpayers holding the bag for the Postal Service’s future failures. 

Until lawmakers take action to reign in and reform the financial recklessness with which the USPS operates taxpayers can only expect billions more of their hard earned dollars to be wasted.     

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ATR Supports Legislation to Make Bonus Depreciation Permanent

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Posted by Ryan Ellis on Thursday, May 28th, 2015, 3:30 PM PERMALINK


Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) recently introduced H.R. 2510, legislation that would make the 50 percent bonus depreciation tax extender permanent. In turn, this will encourage strong job creation and economic growth. ATR endorses this legislation and urges all members of the Congress to vote for and otherwise support this important pro-growth bill.

Currently, businesses are able to immediately deduct 50 percent of qualified purchased property such as new equipment. But since this provision was enacted in 2002, it has been increased, extended and expired in a haphazard way. This uncertainty is problematic for businesses owners as it affects their ability to effectively make long-term decisions. But by making bonus depreciation permanent, H.R. 2510 will create much needed certainty and spur job growth, economic activity and increase wages.

H.R. 2510 also contains several improvements that encourages Americans to invest in their business. First, it expands the definition of qualifying property under bonus depreciation to include retail and restaurant improvements. Addressing this inequity will help encourage business owners to make important investments. Second, H.R.2510 will allow businesses to claim unused Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax credits and use these credits for capital investment.

Making bonus deprecation permanent will produce immediate and strong economic benefits. A study released by the Tax Foundation found making bonus depreciation permanent will add $182 billion to the economy, increase federal revenue by $23 billion a year, and create 212,000 new jobs.

This pro-growth legislation will help increase economic growth and jobs and create much needed certainty for American businesses. ATR supports this legislation and urges members of Congress to support and pass this bill. 

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Top Five Reasons Congress Should Lift the Ban on Crude Exports

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, May 28th, 2015, 2:57 PM PERMALINK


Since the early 1970s the U.S. has had a ban in place on the export of crude oil. The ban was originally enacted to protect the U.S. supply of crude in response to decades of declining domestic production and issues in the international oil market during the 1970s.

Yet in recent years these concerns have become obsolete as the U.S. is now experiencing a renaissance in the production of crude thanks in part to improvements in extraction and exploration methods. In fact since 2008 U.S. crude output has increased a whopping 64 percent.

This massive increase in crude production has the potential to: reduce U.S. gas prices; create hundreds of thousands of new jobs; increase GDP; increase household incomes; and reduce the U.S. trade deficit.

However all of these benefits are contingent on whether Congress will act to lift the decades old ban on crude exports.          

1. Lower U.S. Gas Prices. Lifting the export ban would increase global crude supplies, in turn lowering global prices. Lower global prices would put downward pressure on domestic prices reducing the price Americans pay at the pump. A recent IHS report found lifting the ban would reduce gasoline prices 8 cents a gallon thereby saving drivers $265 billion over the next 15 years.        

2. Job Creation. As a result of increased economic activity from lifting the ban, average U.S. job creation is projected to reach up to 859,000 new jobs. Additionally, U.S. job creation resulting from lifting the ban is estimated to peak in 2018 at between 1 million and 1.5 million new jobs.

3. Increase Economic Growth. A recent study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found lifting the ban would increase the “size of the economy…employment, investment, public revenue, and trade.” This finding was echoed by similar studies that project lifting the ban would increase U.S. GDP by $73 billion in 2016 with an additional increase of $134 billion in 2018.     

4. Increase Household Income.  Due to the increased investment, job creation and low gasoline prices resulting from lifting the ban on crude exports, average disposable income per household would increase by $391 in 2018. A recent study by the Aspen Institute further found that real household income would increase up to $3,000 per household by 2025. 

5. Reduce U.S. Trade Deficit. Allowing crude exports would also have a profound and positive impact on the U.S. trade deficit.  Lifting the crude export ban would contribute to expanded U.S. exports. Such expansion is projected to narrow the U.S. trade deficit by $22.3 billion in 2020 through increased international trade of U.S. crude.   

 

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Congress Must Take a Stand Against Crony Capitalism by Ending the Ex-Im Bank

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Thursday, May 28th, 2015, 9:30 AM PERMALINK


Members of Congress love to tout their support for the free market and their opposition to crony capitalism.  So when the Export-Import bank expires on June 30, Congress has the opportunity to prove it really means what it says by putting an end to this poster child of corporate welfare.

Ex-Im provides loans and financing to assist US companies to export their goods and services. It does so by financing the foreign companies purchasing of US products. In theory, this helps companies compete overseas when they would otherwise be unable to. In reality, the bank finances commerce between wealthy well-connected foreign and US companies to the tune of billions of dollars.

By far the biggest beneficiary of Ex-Im largesse is Boeing, which benefits from 40 percent of all loans the bank has given out. There is no reason Boeing needs this assistance. Just last year the company reported record high revenues.

A report from the Wall Street Journal found that Boeing has worked closely with Congress whenever the bank has come up for reauthorization, and helped craft terms for loans that it directly benefits from. The Aerospace giant has become so involved in this process that there was “an extraordinary level of coordination between public officials and corporate executives.” It is no wonder that Ex-Im is sometimes referred to as “Boeing’s Bank.”

In fact, the Sunlight Foundation found that 19 of the top 20 recipients of Ex-Im largesse lobbied congress to extend the bank. In the process, these companies have shaped the bank to provide highly favorable loans. Not only do US firms not need this welfare, foreign recipients are completely undeserving of these handouts. Foreign firms that have received Ex-Im loans include Russian oligarchs that supply arms to Syria and Iran, State owned airlines, and a Mexican energy conglomerate.

Supporters of Ex-Im claim that the bank helps small businesses. But in reality, small businesses do not have the resources and connections to compete for Ex-Im subsidies and so less than 1 percent of 1 percent of small business benefit from subsidies distributed by the bank.

If that were not bad enough, the bank has come under scrutiny because of for numerous cases of fraud and corruption that have been uncovered by the Inspector General and Government Accountability Office (GAO). In the past six years alone, there have been 85 criminal indictments, 48 criminal judgments, and a quarter billion in fines, restitution, and forfeiture from investigations into Ex-Im. The Heritage Foundation has noted that job numbers touted by bank officials as part of Ex-Im’s necessity have been subject to unabashed criticism from the GAO.

Not only are Ex-Im’s loans unnecessary, they are also costly. According to the Congressional Budget Office, reauthorizing the bank will cost taxpayers $2 billion over the next decade. Taxpayers can no longer afford to finance this crony capitalism, especially in today’s environment of tight budgets.

Urge your Congressman to oppose reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank by calling 202-224-3121 

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Maryland Has Been Wrongly Double-Taxing Residents Who Pay Income Tax to Other States

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Posted by Grace Palo on Wednesday, May 27th, 2015, 4:53 PM PERMALINK


Last Monday, the Supreme Court struck down Maryland’s practice of double-taxing residents who pay income taxes in other states. 
 
The Court ruled 5-4 that the tax law is unconstitutional due to the fact that it does not provide a full tax credit to residents for income tax paid outside of the state. The ruling will affect about 55,000 taxpayers.  
 
Maryland’s income tax law had been withholding a credit on the county segment of the state income tax, which could be as high as 3.2 percent, lead to residents with out-of-state income to experience double taxation. The Justices ruled that this violated the commerce clause of the Constitution due to its potential to discourage individuals from doing business across state lines.
 
"Maryland's tax scheme is inherently discriminatory and operates as a tariff," the court wrote in its summary, "which is fatal because tariffs are 'the paradigmatic example of a law discriminating against interstate commerce.' "
 
Income from other states is usually taxed both where the money is made and where taxpayers live, in most states, but in order to guard against double taxation, states usually give residents a full credit for income taxes paid on out-of-state earnings. 
 
Maryland’s residents have been able to deduct income taxes paid to other states from their Maryland income tax, but the deduction could not be applied to a “piggyback” tax that is collected by the state for counties and the city of Baltimore.
 
Those who tried to claim the credit on their county income tax returns between 2006 and 2014 are likely to be eligible for refunds, which officials estimate at about $200 million with interest. The refunds will be provided from the state’s income tax reserve fund. 
 
Comptroller of the Treasury of Maryland v. Wynne’s ruling will potentially cost states with similar tax laws, including New York, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, millions of dollars. 
 
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Soto¬mayor all voted against Maryland, while Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Elena Kagan and Clarence Thomas dissented
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New Report Finds Obamacare Overhead to Cost $273 Billion

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, May 27th, 2015, 2:43 PM PERMALINK


Obamacare will be responsible for $273.6 billion in new administrative costs between now and 2022 according to a new report released by Health Affairs Blog. As the researchers note, this means Obamacare overhead accounts for an average of $1,375 per newly insured person per year.

The report notes that overhead of government programs accounts for $101.4 billion while private insurance overhead accounts for the remaining $172.2 billion.

According to co-author Steffie Woolhander, the exorbitant amounts of money spent on administrative overhead in Obamacare undermines the stated goal of the law to provide affordable coverage to uninsured Americans. In fact, 22 percent of federal spending on Obamacare is being consumed by bureaucracy.

This is not the first time Obamacare has left the American people on the hook for billions of dollars in unneccesary costs.

Since 2011, $5.4 billion in taxpayer money has gone to the states to set up healthcare exchanges. This money was given away with zero oversight and no strings attached and so it should not be surprising to hear that numerous states have wasted billions in taxpayer money on unworkable Obamacare websites.

While exchanges for Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico, and Nevada have all been spectacular failures, the poster child for Obamacare waste is undoubtedly Oregon, which spent $305 million on its exchange only to later return to the federally run Healthcare.gov at an additional cost of $41 million. Since then, former Oregon Governor Kitzhaber has come under investigation over accusations he scrapped the exchange in order to help his 2014 reelection campaign, rather than making decisions based on the workability of the website.    

Already, Obamacare has cost taxpayers billions of dollars. With this latest news of out-of-control administrative costs, Congress must do more to ensure stronger oversight and accountability over the law.

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Why Intellectual Property Trumps the Currency Fight

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Posted by Nate D'Amico on Wednesday, May 27th, 2015, 12:48 PM PERMALINK


Last Thursday, the Senate voted 62 to 38 to advance the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill.  This is a vital piece of legislation to aid President Obama and Congress’s ongoing push to complete negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.  This is a multi-lateral trade deal with eleven foreign nations, among them Australia, Japan, and Singapore that began negotiations in 2005.  This bill is significant because it will allow us to establish and expand intellectual property protections with countries who currently have weak or non-existent intellectual property laws or fail to prevent theft of U.S. intellectual property.

The bill, however, and the entire trade agreement may fall apart due to maneuvering concerning currency manipulation. A small group of mostly Democrats, especially Elizabeth Warren (D-MASS), are pushing for amendments that will include enforcing punitive trade mechanisms upon countries who are found to be manipulating their currency to gain unfair advantage.  This has been a hot topic on the international stage in recent years, especially concerning trade with China (who is not a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership) and Japan, which some suspect is trying to devalue the yen.  However, there is widespread belief that the other parties in the TPP will not consent to any enforcement measures.  The White House has even threatened a veto of TPA if the amendments are included in the final version of the bill.

Why would the White House go so far as to threaten to kill a bill that has had strong bipartisan support?  Everyone agrees that currency manipulation is an issue that needs to be addressed to protect America’s strength in foreign trade.  But at the cost of torpedoing a major trade agreement almost a decade in the making, it’s simply not worth making our stand here.  The most significant part of TPP is that it will bring strong intellectual property protections for American companies to nearly a dozen new countries.  The benefits to the American economy will be enormous, likely to the tune of trillions of dollars and millions of jobs.

This deal will do far more for us now than currency manipulation penalties will.  The other signatories to the trade agreement also have a significant interest in the passage of the current TPA.  This is not because suspected currency manipulation will be allowed to continue, but because this will further open foreign markets to U.S. companies.  Those already in the Pacific will have mechanics to increase the scale of their operations, while countless new companies, secured by the TPP’s intellectual property protections, will make first forays into the region.  This deal will give members like Malaysia and Peru unprecedented access to the American market. The benefits to our own and the global economy are clear.  The choice Congress faces in finalizing this bill is between forcing measures that will either cause TPA to be vetoed or bring the Trans-Pacific Partnership to a grinding halt if the President does sign it, or going forward with TPA as it now stands and seeing to fruition a trade deal that will bring trillions into the U.S. economy and into the pockets of American companies and workers.  Does that really sound like a tough choice to make?

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IRS’s Ability to Protect Taxpayer Information in Question Following Cyberattack

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, May 26th, 2015, 6:51 PM PERMALINK


The IRS today announced that hackers have breached their system and stolen the personal information of over 100,000 taxpayers by accessing old returns. The breach should again raise questions about the ability of the agency to safely protect confidential taxpayer information especially given the increased responsibility the agency is being given in administering Obamacare.

According to the agency, hackers have used personal information of taxpayers to file fraudulent tax returns by exploiting a specific application known as “Get Transcript.” The final amount stolen has yet to be determined although Commissioner Koskinen hoped it would not reach $50 million.

In a statement, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said it is unacceptable that the IRS remains so vulnerable, and the agency has been “repeatedly warned” that it needed to do more to protect taxpayers.

At the same time, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has repeatedly raised concerns about the agency’s ability to protect taxpayer information. A TIGTA report issued earlier this month found that the agency had failed to fire employees that “willfully violate tax law”, while a report issued in February found that the agency had rehired employees that had engaged in unauthorized access of taxpayer information.

Just last week, it was revealed that the agency had failed to test its system for administering Obamacare until a week before tax filing season began. Given its repeated failings, it should be alarming that the agency will now be handling the personal healthcare information of Americans.

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Florida Legislature Adjourns Without Action on Gov. Scott’s Tax Cuts

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Posted by Brad Hart on Tuesday, May 26th, 2015, 9:57 AM PERMALINK


Earlier this month the Florida legislature adjourned without passing a budget. This happened as a result of the state Senate’s demands that Florida expand Medicaid under Obamacare in exchange for a tax reduction package passed by the House. The House didn’t bite and sine die came and went. A special session to resolve their differences convenes on June 1.

In the last 20 years, Florida has been the leader of the nation in bringing in new families, businesses and retirees to the state. Yes, Florida is a beautiful state with amazing weather, but in recent years, it has been Gov. Rick Scott’s wide range of tax cuts that have made the Sunshine State even more appealing. His tax cuts have been both pro-family and pro-business. This provided relief to a wide range of residents.

 In Gov. Scott’s first term, the legislature passed 2 billion dollars in tax cuts. They aren’t resting on those laurels, however.  Florida has one of the nation’s highest communication-services taxes (CST) on cellphones, satellite TV and nonresidential landline phone services. In launching “Cut My Taxes Week,” this year he announced a proposal to reduce the states CST by a rate of 3.6%. This modest reduction will result in about 470 million dollars in annual savings for Florida taxpayers, who are increasingly relying on new technologies that have driven up the cost of these services.

 Before adjourning, the Florida House passed a “No Tax is Safe” plan that included the CST cut but the Senate failed to act on this tax reduction package before they adjourned.

Many in the state Senate have demanded a dramatic expansion of Medicaid instead of spending restraint and tax relief. This new spending program would expand in an unsustainable manner Obamacare’s Medicaid in Florida to a new group of middle class and in many cases childless adults.

This would reverse a trend that Florida has set in recent years. Thanks to Republican health care reforms, Florida has seen an enormous amount of Medicaid savings. Tax payers have saved 118 million annually since a launch of a private program in 2006 and over 1 billion in savings just last year when the program expanded statewide. This program raised the quality of coverage for low income Floridians by transitioning current Medicaid recipients in to a managed-care private program. This is just one of the reasons why Florida is leading the way in 21st century health-care reform.

Demanding an expansion of Obamacare’s Medicaid at the cost of hard working taxpayers doesn’t make sense. If implemented Florida would reverse a positive trend in health care savings and taxpayer relief by bending the cost curve upward for years to come. All of this has occurred at the same time the federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services has demanded Medicaid expansion in Florida.  To cave to the masked demands of the Obama Administration by expanding Medicaid would not benefit taxpayers or current recipients of Medicaid

Decades of research suggest, that states with lower tax burdens grow faster. The Florida House and Gov. Scott’s modest 2015 tax cuts recognize this reality. When the Florida legislature reconvenes next month, the Senate should abandon demands for expansion of Medicaid in exchange for much needed tax relief by reducing the CST tax. 

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true christian

THANK GOD THAT THE RACIST,BIGOTED,AND HATE FILLED REPUBLICANS WILL NEVER WIN THE WHITEHOUSE EVER AGAIN.IF THEY DID GOD CERTAINLY WILL DESTROY THE ONCE GREAT NATION USA BECAUSE OF THE REPUBLICANS HATRED OF TRUE HARDWORKING POOR PEOPLE. IF ONLY THE REPUBLICANS WILL LEARN TO STOP SUCKING GROVERS AND KOCHS BROTHERS COCK LONG ENOOUGH TO CARE AND CUDDLE THE POOR LIKE THEY DO THEIR RICH TASKMASTERS THE USA COULD BECOME GREAT AGAIN. Ezekiel 16:49-50New International Version (NIV)

49 “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.


ATR Supports Creation of Obamacare Inspector General

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Thursday, May 21st, 2015, 4:14 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform supports H.R. 2400, the “Special Inspector General for Monitoring the Affordable Care” (SIGMA) Act, introduced by Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-Ill). This legislation will help ensure stronger oversight over Obamacare and hold unelected bureaucrats accountable to the American people.

The SIGMA act creates a special inspector general to oversee and monitor Obamacare. While Obamacare’s many complex regulations and mandates span across numerous government agencies, no one inspector general has jurisdiction over these agencies.

H.R. 2400 would fix this problem by creating an inspector general that could knock on doors across the government, from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to the Treasury Department, the Social Security Administration, the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the Veterans' Administration, the Department of Labor, and even the Peace Corps.  This would shine a much needed spotlight on the unaccountable actions of the Administration and provide Congress and taxpayers with reports on a regular basis.

The creation of an inspector general office for Obamacare follows in the footsteps of other recent predecessors for Iraq reconstruction, Afghanistan reconstruction, and the TARP bailout.  These inspectors general have recovered billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers, and resulted in prosecutions of hundreds of bad actors.

Already, Obamacare has cost taxpayers billions upon billions of wasted dollars. Since 2011, HHS gave almost $5.4 billion in grant money to states for the attempted construction of Obamacare exchange websites. This money was handed out with little oversight and no strings attached.

Unsurprisingly, several states wasted each and every dollar they received.

Oregon shut down its website and moved to the federal exchange earlier this year. Despite being given $305 million in grant money, the website failed to enroll anyone weeks after the November 2013 deadline and was forced to send out paper applications to individuals hoping to enroll. After failing to create a useable website, Oregon moved back to the federally run Healthcare.gov at the cost of $41 million. As a result, the actions of Oregon officials has become the subject of multiple federal investigations that remain ongoing.

In addition, Hawaii recently announced it plans to migrate to the federal exchange after failing to receive a $28 million bailout. The website failed to become financially viable because of lower than expected enrollment figures. In fact, the website enrolled just 8,592 individuals in year one despite spending $205 million constructing its exchange. This means it spent $23,899 per enrollee.

These two states are not on their own. Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico, and Nevada have all been astonishing failures that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

If an Obamacare inspector general had existed in the past, perhaps taxpayers would have been spared from billions of dollars in waste, and unelected bureaucrats would be held accountable for their inappropriate conduct. ATR urges all members of Congress to support and vote for this important legislation.

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